From Baltimore to Suez Canal, bigger container ships bring more risks


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Big ships can cause big problems. In 2021, the giant container ship Ever Given capsized in the Suez Canal, blocking the important trade channel between Europe and Asia.For nearly a week, the firmly anchored ship captivated and responded to a pandemic-weary world with crazy theories and wilder meme. But it also has real-world consequences: $10 billion in trade passes through the canal every day.

Another heavy cargo ship hit a support column of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge around 1:30 a.m. this week, causing the 1.6-mile-long bridge to almost immediately plunge into the water.A bridge collapse disrupted trade at the Port of Baltimore Tuesday morning, which is handling Foreign freight volume to reach $81 billion in 2023.Rebuilding bridges can cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Six construction workers on the bridge are presumed dead, but officials said a “mayday” warning from the boat allowed Maryland Transportation Authority police to shut down traffic on the bridge, which may have prevented some casualties.

The two events occurred almost exactly three years apart, 5,000 miles apart, and under very different circumstances. But both involve the giant ships that have become the backbone of modern global trade. The Ever Give is a very large ship, nearly 1,300 feet long and 220,000 gross tons. The Dali Ship, while still massive on a human scale, was a smaller ship, approximately 980 feet in length and with a gross tonnage of less than 100,000.

These large ships are still a long way from the world’s first successful container ship, a converted steamship From New Jersey to Texas in 1956.Over the next few decades, container ship sizes slowly increased, then suddenly Significant jump in scale The past 20 years have forced ports and canals to frequently adapt at a cost of billions of dollars. But new shipping technologies and the logic of economies of scale mean ships are getting bigger.

The Key Bridge opened in 1977 and cost the equivalent of $316 million in modern terms. This is a massive infrastructure project. But even so, it can’t compete with modern container ships. In fact, no bridge pier could withstand a hit from a ship the size of the Dali, said Benjamin W. Schafer, a professor of civil and systems engineering at Johns Hopkins University. This week my colleagues.

“These container ships are huge,” Schaefer said.

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Modern shopping has more than just accidents to worry about. About 90% of international Trade by volume is transported by sea. These giant container ships transit many geopolitical hotspots, and players have realized that blocking one or two ships could have a global impact that far outweighs their initial outlay. While maritime trade has always been affected by war, the current size of ships means that a successful rocket or drone attack could strand a ship carrying hundreds of thousands of tons.

Last year, the Yemeni armed group known as the Houthis began attacking container ships and oil tankers in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait after Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel led to a massive assault on the Palestinian enclave of Gaza.The attacks effectively cut off access to the Red Sea and Suez Canal, causing many shippers to reroute south. Near the southern tip of Africaincreasing the average one-way trip by 10 days.

global shipping costs The result is increasedand Supply chain expert estimates If this disruption continues for a full year, global consumer prices could rise by as much as 2%.Despite efforts by the United States and its allies to punish the Houthis for these attacks, they So far it is not possible.

The Bab el-Mandeb Strait is just one potential bottleneck for global shipping.on the other hand The Strait of Hormuz is one pole of the Arabian PeninsulaTensions between Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and merchant shipping frequently erupt. On the Black Sea, Russia has been able to block the shipment of large quantities of Ukrainian goods. food since the invasion of neighboring countries in February 2022.

Like the Suez Canal, the Panama Canal is increasingly seen as a concern for global trade.While the latter could travel quickly across the Americas, it relied on rain and was hampered by Drought lasts for several months.

In Asia, there are concerns over strategic shipping routes such as the Strait of Malacca. Indian Ocean between Indonesia and Malaysia to the South China Seaand Taiwan Strait Separate the self-governing island from China.

Asia is a particularly worrying region when it comes to shipping. This year, U.S. labor groups sent a letter to the Biden administration petitioning for trade relief for the U.S. shipbuilding industry, noting that Chinese-made ships, many of them giant vessels built by state-owned enterprises, now dominate global maritime trade. As Rana Fruhar of the Financial Times wrote this month, “the United States has largely stopped building its own ships” over the past few decades.

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Part of the reason for the move away from U.S. shipbuilding is that the raw materials and components needed to build these new ships are no longer produced in the United States, Forouhar pointed out. Ironically, these industries are victims of offshoring, which was only possible with the surge in global trade brought about by our new mega-ships.

In many ways, giant container ships may be emblematic of our times. The Dali may be sailing into a U.S. port, but the ship was built by South Korea’s Hyundai, operated by a group of Indian nationals and owned by a Singaporean company, transporting containers on behalf of a Danish shipping giant that were bound for the United States. Sri Lanka.

This kind of cross-border action against a single ship is not unusual.

Last month, the Houthis attacked a ship transporting tens of thousands of tons of fertilizer from Saudi Arabia to Bulgaria, a move they defended by claiming the ship was British and therefore an ally of Israel, which they oppose war. Gaza. (The ship, the Rubymar, later sank, providing spectacular images). But the only link between the UK and the Rubima is that a maritime database lists an apartment in Southampton, England, as the owner’s address.

as The Financial Times observedthe ship “flagged Belize, was partly managed by a ship management company in Beirut, sailed with another Lebanese operator and had a mostly Syrian crew.”

These opaque transnational systems are the result of rampant globalization, which has enabled decades of booming economic growth. But the system doesn’t always look good. Rachel Premack said that in addition to the risk of hitting a bridge, rampaging through a canal or being fired upon by militants, these giant ships represent an oligopoly that lacks competition. wrote in sharp criticism of Freight Waves in 2022often engaged in questionable business practices, including unregulated labor practices.

Investigators are looking into whether the blackout that caused the Dali to hit the Key Bridge was caused by a power outage. caused by dirty fuel, contamination from water, dirt and algae can clog the filters in the ship’s main generator.Ian Ralby, chief executive of maritime and resource security consultancy IR Consilium, said The Washington Post thinks Widespread disruptions to global shipping routes could exacerbate the problem.

“We may be faced with a situation where ships will be bunkering in places where the quality or specification of the fuel cannot be guaranteed,” he said.



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By Ali Raza

I am a dedicated and skilled News Content Writer with a passion for delivering accurate and engaging stories to a diverse audience. With a solid background in journalism and a keen eye for detail, I bring a commitment to excellence and a deep understanding of the evolving media landscape.

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